The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday approved a resolution, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, on religious hatred in the wake of the desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden.
The resolution calls for the UN rights chief to publish a report on religious hatred and for states to review their laws and plug gaps that may “impede the prevention and prosecution of acts and advocacy of religious hatred.”
It was opposed by the United States and the European Union, who say it conflicts with their view on human rights and freedom of expression. While condemning the desecration of the Quran, they argued the OIC initiative was designed to safeguard religious symbols rather than human rights.
An Iraqi immigrant to Sweden carried out the vile act of Quran desecration outside a Stockholm mosque on June 28, sparking outrage across the Muslim world and demands by Muslim states for action.
As many as 28 countries including China, India, South Africa, and Ukraine voted in favour, 12 voted against, and seven countries abstained. Representatives of some countries clapped after the resolution passed.
After the vote, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Khalil Hashmi, accused the West of “lip service” to their commitment to preventing religious hatred.
“The opposition of a few in the room has emanated from their unwillingness to condemn the public desecration of the Holy Quran or any other religious book,” he said.
“They lack political, legal, and moral courage to condemn this act, and it was the minimum that the Council could have expected from them.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif welcomed the adoption of the resolution entitled “Countering religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
“We are grateful to all the member countries of the UN Human Rights Council that supported the resolution moved by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC. Incidents like public desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden can’t be tolerated at all,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
The vote’s outcome marks a major defeat for Western countries at a time when the OIC has unprecedented clout in the council, the only body made up of governments to protect human rights worldwide.
Marc Limon, director of the Geneva-based Universal Rights Group, said the outcome showed “the West is in full retreat at the Human Rights Council.”
“They’re increasingly losing support and losing the argument,” he said.
Michele Taylor, the US Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, said the United States’ concerns about the initiative “were not taken seriously.”
“I believe with a little more time and more open discussion, we could have also found a way forward together on this resolution,” she said.